The short of it is, for the most part, this movie is definitely worth the hype! The long of it is, Avatar is by no means an original story. It is an amalgamation of familiar stories, transported to an whole different arena, and executed VERY well. Avatar is a combination of every love story you have ever seen, meets The Matrix, meets Platoon, meets Aliens, meets human ignorance and arrogance.
The year is 2154, surprisingly, humans are still obsessed with greed and, well, that’s pretty much it. Except now they have expanded that greed across the galaxy to Pandora. A rich deposit of ore that is key to solving the earth’s energy crisis lies beneath “Hometree,” a giant tree one of clans of the indigenous population called the “Na’vi,” inhabit.
Jake (Sam Worthington) is a paraplegic Marine who is recruited to drive an Avatar after his twin brother dies on earth. An Avatar is a genetic Na’vi and human hybrid that allows its human driver to survive the toxic air of Pandora (they are DNA specific, hence the twin brother). His mission is to infiltrate the Na’vi, get them to trust him and do what he can to facilitate the relocation peacefully. On his first night out, Jake is separated from his science teammates, saved by Neytiri (Zoe Saldana) and is allowed to meet the tribe and learn their ways.
At this point, the familiarity ensues. Jake, the “baby,” learns their native language, to hunt, survive in the harsh yet lovely environment, literally bond with the creatures of the planet, and that it is wrong to wipe out another species for profit. The social references are not veiled as earth’s history replays in my head…
Dr Grace Augustine (Sigourney Weaver) scientifically proves that everything on Pandora is intertwined and EVERYTHING lives in harmony. Of course the business and military contingents of the mission do not want to hear any of it. For all they care, the Na’vi could be second cousins asking for a loan. Parker Selfridge (Giovanni Ribisi) is the corporate representative that is almost as eager as Colonel Miles Quatrich (Stephen Lang) to destroy the Na’vi. (Think a much more agressive Carter Burke from Aliens). When the inevitable clash takes place, it is what the battle for Endor should have been. No cute, furry Teddy Bears, but real Warriors defending their home and fighting for the right to exist.
The visual eye candy, “real” and animated, is redonkulous! You’re in space, you’re in the dirt, you’re in the trees! (literally) If Avatar does not win any awards other than the most expensive movie made to date, then we know the fix is in. The epic value may be a bit grandiose at times, but it is worth it to see the imagination and creativity that went into creating Pandora. Floating mountains, lush landscapes, towering waterfalls, and creatures I wish really do exist, are brought to life with millions of zeros and ones.
The performances from everyone are believable, even Marine Grunt #12 was giving it his all. Trudy Chacon (Michelle Rodriguez-a hottie in any movie!) is the Marine with a heart who “didn’t sign on for this shit.” Some of the other actors don’t have it as easy as she… I think it speaks volumes when the emotion transcends the boundary of being a digitally animated 9′ blue warrior on a fictional planet, and I actually “care.”
I actually found the 3D a little distracting at times. Yes, they shoot the arrows at the camera. Yes, leaves fall toward the lens. Yes, they fly headlong through huge CG trees at breakneck speeds and every other 3D trick we remember from the 80’s. If you can’t see it in 3D, don’t worry, it will not take away from the core experience.
Avatar is to animation, is what The Matrix was to special effects in 1999. It is undeniably ground breaking, definitely inspiring, and has me sitting on the edge of my seat waiting to see what the next step will be. And at a running time of 150, I am curious to see what could possibly be in the director’s cut…